One of the highlights of my week is teaching yoga to residents at Allegro, a retired-living community. Although I have been teaching this class for a little over two years, with each new week I am just as excited to practice yoga with the seniors as I was the first time I explored yoga with them.
It feels like a ‘gift’ to have the opportunity to guide members of our senior population with gently stretching their bodies along with prompting deeper breathing to help calm their minds and bring a renewed sense of peace and happiness into their spirits…via yoga!
Each person who attended the class I most recently taught at Allegro was 90 years old.
Obviously, age is not stopping them! The oldest senior I’ve had the pleasure of practicing yoga with was 100 years old. He credited “family and yoga” to his longevity.
It is so inspiring to witness these seniors not using age as an excuse to avoid yoga and other forms of exercise available to them.
About our Senior Yoga Class
As is the case with yoga classes I teach on the mat, the seniors’ class begins with centering, a process that encourages us to focus on the breath as a tool to start journeying to that quiet, loving, sacred place within each of us. While we do most of the yoga postures from our chairs, the participants are eventually invited to explore a few standing postures while holding onto chairs for support.
However, because yoga is largely about body awareness, which means ‘listening to your body’ and not doing what doesn’t feel right at any given time, if any of the participants would rather remain seated during the standing segment of class, they are welcome to do so!
In that case, they would simply observe or follow along as best they can from their chairs as they continue focusing on their deeper breathing pattern.
“Take a deep breath as though you are filling up a balloon inside of your belly,” the class participants hear me say each week. “Then, as you exhale, feel as though the balloon is deflating. Inhale and inflate, exhale and deflate.”
This conscious and deeper breathing process is a key component of yoga, because it is this type of breathing that helps quiet the mind from over-thinking and distractions and helps ‘bathe’ us with calm. Plus, deeper breathing offers many other benefits, including oxygenating the cells, enriching the blood, and cleansing the lungs.
When we combine this type of breathing with stretching, we create more space in the body for deeper levels of health, healing, and happy feelings to take place.
Yoga allows us to walk away feeling better than when we first showed up for class.
In a newspaper article I recently wrote about yoga, I said: “While yoga may come to mean something a little different to each person who takes it, what is tough for anyone to feel different about is how much more refreshed and relaxed they feel after a yoga class.”
There are numerous benefits, for all ages, to be gained from consistently doing yoga. In fact, NursingDegree.net lists 77 of them.
Benefits can range from improving one’s mood and range of motion, to lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, stress and pulse rate, to reducing or alleviating anxiety, depression and so much more.
Range of Motion
About range of motion of the joints, in her article 77 Surprising Health Benefits of Yoga, Meredith Walker writes: “A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine indicated that joint range of motion was improved by participants who practiced yoga.”
Walker also lists “eye-hand coordination” as an area that yoga is known to improve, which is another great benefit for seniors.
“Without practice, eye-hand coordination diminishes,” Walker says. “Yoga maintains and improves” it.
Slower Pace and Peace
The opportunity to move at a slower pace is what one avid senior yoga practitioner who attends the Allegro class enjoys so much about her yoga time. She often expresses her appreciation for yoga allowing her to move at a pace that feels right for her body, and so she is a huge fan of the mindful-movement element of yoga.
This same senior loves the peace that yoga helps bring to the surface as a result of her taking her time during her yoga practice.
“When I come to yoga, I can leave any concerns I might have outside that door,” she explains as she glances at or points toward the door of the yoga room. “This is my time — my quiet time — to just let everything go and feel a deep peace. When I miss a yoga class, I get a similar feeling to when I miss church.”
“Every time I go to my doctor, he asks, ‘Are you still doing yoga?'” she says with a smile. “I told him I’d be happy to bring a note to him from my yoga teacher.”
“Doctors and nurses love yoga, ” Walker explains, “because studies indicate that it can help prevent diseases,” such as Osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and so much more.
Reduces Back Pain
“My back feels so much better,” another senior immediately said to me after one of our classes together.
“Yoga reduces spinal compression and helps overall body alignment to reduce back pain,” Walker writes.
Overall Good Feelings
While many people are known to practice yoga to prevent illness, aches and pains, it is clear that yoga can assist with improving just about whatever might ail us. And, if nothing else, some choose to do yoga simply for the good feelings it ignites.
About her weekly yoga practice, another Allegro resident says, “I just love it. I really love it.”
Are there seniors in your life you can introduce to yoga so that they, too, can reap some of the many benefits yoga has to offer for all ages?